Most of the really bizarre experiences I had in my software career occurred during the few years I consulted at AT&T. This is a story I was told, but what triggered it was something about me: security guards always give me a careful look. I stand out to them in ways that most people don’t.
On this occasion, I was visiting the enormous Bell Labs installation (Napierville) that was just transferring itself into AT&T proper. (About two years later, it transferred itself back to being Bell Labs.) In order to visit, I needed a visitor’s badge, and my hosts advised me to please walk casually past the security guard without a badge, to save them a lot of paperwork.
This “sneakwalk” was their custom for visitors. I tried, although, as I advised them in advance, it was hopeless. The guard stopped me, and I waited while the paperwork got done. And then they told me their story.
One of their programmers used to complain that the security was all for show. The guards really paid no attention to anything. “I could paste the face of a gorilla over my badge,” he said, “and they wouldn’t say a word.”
The guy joked about this a lot, and one day he announced that next morning, he was really going to do it. One of his ‘friends’ warned the security guard.
The next morning the guy walked past the guard, flashing his badge, with a picture of a gorilla face where his face should be. The guard waited until he was about thirty feet away, and then called him back. “Let’s see that badge.”
The guy handed over his badge and trembled while the guard studied it carefully, silently, looking from him to the badge and back. What rules had he broken? What awful punishment was about to fall upon him?
After about thirty seconds, the guard said, “Looks good.” He handed the badge back to the guy and let him go.